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ISRO’s GSAT-6A failure? Army, other stakeholders have to wait longer now

As Indian space agency ISRO is running out of any hope to get in touch with the GSAT-6A communication satellite, the Indian army, which was among the possible beneficiaries, will have to wait for some more time now.

The communication satellite GSAT-6A was successfully launched on March 29, but it went dead during its third orbit-raising manoeuvre to place it at 36,000 km above the ground. With a life span of 10 years, the Rs.240-crore worth satellite, was meant to provide communication through the satellite phones for the army and other government agencies in inaccessible, remote and hilly border areas.

For the first time, GSAT-6A was fitted with high thrust Vikas engine for the second stage and ISRO had reported that its second orbit raising operation of GSAT-6A satellite was carried out successfully by LAM Engine firing for about 53 minutes on March 31, 2018 in the morning.

The third stage, to be propelled by the cryogenic engine, could not be undertaken as the spacecraft communication with the ground control at Hassan near Bangalore failed on Sunday, April 1, 2018.

Had it been a momentary switch-off by the satellite to go into safety mode, by now it should have returned to life or should have been revived. Currently, ISRO scientists are hoping to track its current orbit path nearer to the Earth, so they can try to send or retrieve its signals.

ISRO has repeatedly said that the GSAT-6A was similar to the GSAT-6 with technologies such as demonstration of 6m S-Band Unfurlable Antenna, handheld ground terminals and network management techniques, useful in satellite-based mobile phone applications, especially for the mobile units of border forces.

But failure of GSAT-6A should force ISRO engineers to retreat into their labs and reckon the viability of two new techniques used in the rocket’s second stage — induction of high thrust Vikas engine and electromechanical actuation system. Or the engineers should find out whether the cryogenic propellant meant for the Third Stage was the real culprit.

As of now, GSAT-6A will keep orbiting the Earth as another space debris.


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